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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
If you find yourself with a horrendously rusted bridge, screws, trem, locking nut or most any guitar hardware it can be rebuilt quite easily with the right knowhow and time. I'll be using an original first year Edge trem from an RG550 I'm rebuilding (literally rebuilding, the headstock is off the guitar and the fretboard is so shrunken the frets could be pulled out with my fingers). This is a 30 year old trem that's been kept in what appears to be a very damp environment, possibly near the sea. As you can see, it's got so much red colouring on it you'd think it had no soul.



To do any rebuild like this, you'll need the following items
  • Machine oil
  • Lint free rags
  • Phosphoric acid that isn't too strong (Naval Jelly or similar product, I used a 650g/L solution)
  • Small metal brushes for scrubbing
  • Plastic cups or containers to soak the parts

Most people would think that it's shot to hell and just to buy a new one. I'd rather not fork out $200 for a new one. Firstly, check to see if there is anything seized or damaged. Screws that won't move, knife edges that are worn, stripped allen heads etc etc. If you have stuck screws, try machine oil like the one below or sewing machine oil. If that fails, then find a penetrating oil or freezing agent to release the screw. Usually these can be found either at the hardware store or auto supply shop.



Once you've assessed how bad it is, now comes the fun part. First thing's first, disassemble your hardware. Take every single piece apart and put them aside.




Once everything's apart, you'll need to scrub off as much rust as you possibly can. You'll need some metal brushes for this like these



Because we're working with steel parts, the steel brush works best. The brass is good for using on softer metals and the plastic for general loosening of debris on most things. Now get scrubbing. If you have a vice that will come in handy because your fingers will get sore from being scrubbed by the brushes.



This is why we scrub the metal, to remove as must surface rust as possible. This makes what we do afterward more effective. Do this for every part until you have as much rust gone as possible.

Now take all your scrubbed parts and put them into a PLASTIC container. The reason you must use plastic is that phosphoric acid may react with other materials. I used red cups from Costco and they worked a treat due to their size and cheap price.



IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE
Before moving onto this next part, please follow the relevant safety precautions. Acid can damage not only the area around where it is but also you. When you open the bottle, pour it or use it, make sure you have gloves, eye protection, plenty of ventilation and space to move around. When rinsing the parts later, make sure you do it outside into a plastic tub, maybe an ice-cream container or something and don't put your hand into the liquid at any point.

Into the cup, pour enough of the phosphoric acid solution to cover the parts plus a little bit more on top.



This is the stuff I used. $18 and I have enough to last me a long time.



NOTE There are two kinds of products that are similar; rust remover and rust converter. We want remover. Converter turns the rust into a black finish that may mess with threads.

Now comes the part where you go have a beer, or a wine if you're a cheese eating surrender monkey, and wait while science does its thing. I left mine for about 3 hours. Plenty enough time. It ended up looking like some awful root beer which is a normal thing to happen.



Now take your cup and run water through it for a few minutes. If you're worried about small parts getting sucked out and lost, buy a small plastic mesh sieve and use it as a screen on top of the cup. After a few minutes the acid solution should be gone. Take the cup, empty it out and get your parts and put them onto a rag to dry.

Now you get to experience some deja vu. Get your metal brush and scrub the parts once more. This gets rid of the black coating on the parts that is the result of the rust and phosphoric acid reacting and creating an inert material that just brushes off. Then you end up with something like this




As you can see from the locking screws, the difference is MASSIVE. Now what I do is some preventative maintenance and ensuring the trem is as smooth as possible. I open up all the thumb screws and put a drop of machine oil on each thread



Then I screw them down all the way to let the oil into the thread. For prosperity I repeat on the up way too with a drop on the thread and move the screws all up. I go over each part with a little machine oil on a rag and coat each part, just to get a little on then use a second cloth to wipe them dry leaving just a minute protective film on there. Finally it's assembly time.

I put the whole thing together and voila, a rebuilt trem that looked too far gone just a few hours ago is now ready to go back into action. This is especially handy for parts that may not be available in certain colours anymore (IE Ibanez no longer make just a plain black locking nut or trem). And here's the end result




This technique will work on any metal components. Stop tails, vintage bridges, lock nuts etc etc. However, don't use this on tuning machines. I might do a write up or video on that if there's any demand for it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
All good man. :yesway: It's kind of a pilot for me for a blog/youtube thing I want to start doing. I'm no Ola or Fluff, but I know my way around mods, parts and gear so I want to focus on that kind of thing but before I do that wanted to see how something like this would go around a tough crowd like this. :lol:
 

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Nice. :yesway: As a guy who has spent a lot of time with old Floyds and machine oil, I really wish I had thought of rust remover. :lol:
 

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Holy crap, that's a lot of info. I'd subscribe the shit out of a channel like that. Even though I'm like a non sweating robot. I can't even tarnish ibanez Cosmo finishes. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Holy crap, that's a lot of info. I'd subscribe the shit out of a channel like that. Even though I'm like a non sweating robot. I can't even tarnish ibanez Cosmo finishes. :(
You may not, but just imagine the world of used cheap gear it'd open up for you. Guitars people would sell stupidly cheap due to the corrosion that would put other people off. You could clear it off and have a shiny guitar in no time. I'm currently throwing together a 'used guitar rejuvenation guide' that goes through a complete tear down and cleaning of an S Classic I bought today that was in a cupboard for 7 years and how to best shop for used gear and what to look out for.
 

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Nice tutorial.

Any reason for the rust remover over plain ol' mineral spirits? I'm just wondering for my own curiosity; I use mineral spirits for other things and it works great, I've never done it with guitar stuff.
 

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Outstanding! Great reference post - certainly worth a sticky, no?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Mineral spirits and oils only cover the rust. What phosphoric acid does is actually chemically bind with the rust and turn it into ferric phosphate and water meaning it is actually gone. In the photo with the cup and the foam inside it, all the black stuff floating on top is that material that's fallen off the metal as it can't hold onto it That's why you use a metal brush after the soak to remove the black ferric phosphate and give you clean bare metal.

Doing it this way takes longer but removes all the rust without covering it and slowing or even stopping any future degradation.

I use rust remover on car parts and on my lawn mower I use rust converter as it turns the rust into a protective coating to prevent further rusting.
 

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Awesome post. I need to do this to my 1527 trem. I may try 1 M aqua regia (50/50 mol frac HCl and HNO3), since I can prepare that in my lab. It may remove the cosmos black finish though (which is already half gone).
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
You know what, when I used the phosphoric acid solution, I tested it on cosmo black lock nut pads and it didn't affect them at all thankfully so I'm gonna stick to that as I'm not at your level when it comes to the science side of things and finding alternatives. Feel free to suggest anything else that may be worth trying that us peons could obtain.
 

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I should probably stick with what you used. Aqua regia (royal water) is an old recipe known for its slow ability to dissolve noble metals. It is probably overkill for dissolving oxides and carbonates. I'd like to not totally strip the cosmos black, seeing as sweat and friction remove it easily :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Haha, yeah. I actually found a place locally that can replate in an almost identical colour for like $20.
 
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